Moving day and some things are going to change in your child’s world.. All will be new, exciting and just a little unpredictable. Young children are sometimes thrown off by change and need very practical strategies to understand and assert age-appropriate control. They also need to explicit reminders of all the things that never change – that they are loved and safe.
As you lead your child through change, find the right words to reassure and simplify what feels overwhelming at the moment. Try something as simple as, “home is wherever I’m with you“. Or, include a little pretend game, ‘let’s hide little balls of love in all the corners to make this house ours“. It’s always okay to miss the “old house” while creating a positive focus on the “new”. Some children need time to put down new roots. Explain “every day we make this house more and more our home“.
Take “time out”, not discipline time out, but time out from the stress and busyness of moving. Be patient when everything feels like it’s falling apart, when parents and children are tired or trying to juggle all the extra demands of moving. Stop for cuddle and comfort time when your child is losing it, or when you are feeling overwhelmed. Efficiency is great except when kids are in the picture. Young children still need your time and attention, even more so, when big changes are underway.
Include your child in the packing and unpacking routine. Even if they are at school while you do most of the packing and unpacking, let them know what you’re doing so things don’t mysteriously disappear and reappear. Show them the labels on boxes. Children can even draw pictures on the boxes to label each of the rooms. Let your child pack a few of their things. And be sure to set aside special boxes for your child’s most important belongings – favorite toys, books, and clothing.
Prepare your child with visits or stories about the new house. Young children gain ownership and confidence with hands-on experiences. Walk through the new rooms or look at pictures together online. Plan things you’ll do in the new house – first playdates, parties, a tree swing, a new garden area. Give your child something to look forward to that he’s in charge of – like paint colors, furniture placement, or choose your child’s art for the walls. Finally, countdown to moving day on a calendar or white board with markers.
Make photo books to help your child understand the sequence of events and to help with the emotional transition. One book might be called Moving Day – with your child taking pictures of the big day. The other book might be Old House – New House – with pictures of side-by-side comparisons of the two houses. For example, pictures showing what’s the same and different between the two houses: from outside the front of the houses, the inside entrance, the kitchens, your child’s bedrooms, bathrooms or bath time, play areas, even the house and street number. Your child can then revisit the old house or relive moving day as often as he needs to feel confident and safe through the changes.
Add some “new house games” to help your child’s transition. Try a New House Scavenger Hunt that connects the old routines with the new routines. For example, go find 12 removable window decals that are hidden on the windows; find assorted cleaning supplies – mop, bucket, brooms; find the “welcome box” hiding somewhere in the new house holding new address labels, luggage tags, welcome home signs, happy dreams hot chocolate packets, and Hershey kisses. And don’t be too quick to “organize” everything – save a few of those moving boxes for inside or outside box play.
Most importantly, you are your child’s “home” in the world, not a house, not a street, certainly not a city. If you stay connected and as stress free as possible, your child will find his calm center through any change. Consistency and predictability are the source of peace and calm in a home. Try to maintain bedtime routines and prepare in advance so mornings don’t through off the entire day. Take extra care of your child’s favorite toys and most loved objects. New is exciting but the old has a very special place in your child’s heart.